Born at 28 weeks with a birth weight of only 900 grams, Ezwile Bayede Ntuli could not wait to enter the world. But his journey to health was a tough one. As a tiny preemie, he spent more than three months in hospital before he could be sent home with his parents. This is his story.
Despite the difficult start to his life, Ezwile looks happy and healthy at six months old.

Bonisiwe Baraza was at home alone on 29 July 2023 when her water broke. Due to previous miscarriages at around 26 weeks, she immediately thought she was losing her baby. “I panicked and tried to hold it in, but it kept gushing out,” she recalls. She went to the casualty at Mediclinic Ermelo, from where she was immediately transferred to Mediclinic Newcastle, about 150km away, as this was where her gynaecologist was based.

On arrival, she was informed that her baby would have to be delivered via C-section in the morning to have a chance of survival. “I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night. I was on the internet the entire night researching premature babies and how they grow or do they even survive. The stress was killing me,” she says.

Proud parents Bonisiwe Baraza and Jabu Ntuli with Ezwile.

The facilities we used for Ezwile at the NICU included ventilator support for breathing, central umbilical lines to assist with nutrition and glucose and hydration control, and strict temperature control in an incubator.

On 31 July, Bonisiwe’s son was born. “I could feel my hope swell after seeing my baby. Words cannot describe the joy I felt when I saw him for the first time,” she says. He was given the name Ezwile, meaning “our ancestors have heard our prayers”. But owing to his premature birth, Ezwile was unable to survive independently outside of his mother’s womb and required intensive support. He would need multiple blood transfusions, ventilation, and oxygen support because of his underdeveloped lungs.

World-class neonatal care

Bonisiwe’s gynaecologist handed over the baby’s treatment to paediatrician Dr Busi Mahlaba, who placed him in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where he received world-class care. 

“The facilities we used for Ezwile at Mediclinic Newcastle’s NICU included ventilator support for breathing, central umbilical lines to assist with nutrition and glucose and hydration control, and strict temperature control in an incubator,” says Dr Mahlaba, who still plays a vital role in Ezwile’s life out of hospital; monitoring his growth, feeding, and immunisation patterns.

“It was painful for me to see my baby in pain from the drips, struggling to breathe, and vomiting,” says Bonisiwe. Meanwhile, Ezwile developed jaundice, was unable to breathe independently and did not feed well, dropping in weight to a mere 700 grams at one point. It was also difficult for Bonisiwe to stay at the hospital, where all she could do was wait for her son to get stronger. 

After her discharge in September, she would have to commute weekly to see him. Another issue was that she and her husband Jabu Ntuli live in Ermelo, so he could only see her and their son when he was able to travel to the hospital, adding extra strain to an already taxing emotional journey.

Joyful phone call

But thanks to the NICU team, on 21 October, Bonisiwe finally got the call she’d been waiting for. Ezwile had reached the required weight of 1.9kg, and she and Jabu could return to Newcastle to take him home. “I started screaming with joy,” she recalls.

“I thank the Mediclinic Newcastle staff members for their great work and unwavering commitment to Ezwile,” says Jabu. “They also always kept us updated when we weren’t here; it means a lot to me.”

At six months, Ezwile’s feeding and sleeping patterns have improved and his development has started to catch up. He is able to recognise his mother’s voice and direct his attention to where the sound is coming from. He can also lift his head on his own. “I am looking forward to witnessing many more milestones in his development; like sitting up, crawling and walking around the house,” says proud mom Bonisiwe.

Helping hand: Mom Bonisiwe is looking forward to Ezwile reaching further developmental milestones.

Excellence at Mediclinic NICUs

All Mediclinic NICUs contain high care, intensive care, and “growing” beds, and are equipped with the latest medical technology, says Aliné Hall, Clinical Quality Specialist: Child Health Mediclinic Southern Africa. An expert team of doctors, nurses, and other dedicated medical specialists take a family-centred, holistic approach to care. Staff encourage kangaroo mother care, or skin-to-skin contact with the parents, to promote bonding, growth and feeding. Parents are part of all decision-making and kept informed every step of the way. Mediclinic Newcastle Maternity Services Unit and its NICU has received wide praise from parents for its leading-edge facilities, compassionate, expert care, and delivery of top-class medical services to the local community. As Gwen Williams, Nursing Manager of Mediclinic Newcastle’s Maternity Unit, says, “It is an absolute privilege to be the first person to witness the miracle of life every day.”

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